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Proposed Rental (Reform) Bill Amendments

Posted on April 3rd, 2024 -

New proposed amendments to the Renters (Reform) Bill have been revealed. The amendments appear to be sensible solutions to a few sticking points in the original Bill.

The Government is planning to table a series of amendments to the Bill, including:

  • A requirement that tenants be unable to give two months’ notice to leave until they have been in a property for at least four months – creating a six-month tenancy by default
  • Delaying the Section 21 ban – a commitment to a full review of the courts before ending section 21 for existing tenancies
  • Allowing landlords to tailor contracts to the academic year for students
  • Cutting duplication between council licensing schemes and a new national database of rented homes where landlords must register their properties
  • Offering homelessness support from local councils to evicted tenants

We hope that the Government press ahead this side of the general election as any further delays could derail plans by this administration, possibly having serious implications to the Private rented Sector.

MPs return from their Easter recess on 15th April.

You can follow the Renters (Reform) Bill’s progress here; https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3462

 

 

Here are the proposed amendments in detail;

ESTABLISH AN INITIAL SIX-MONTH TENANCY

This balances protecting landlords’ investment, alongside ensuring tenants can still leave a property after six months if circumstances change. In effect, it creates a default fixed term of six months in all contracts and mirrors a standard break clause in many existing contracts. We are considering exemptions, such as the death of a tenant, domestic abuse, or significant hazards in the property.

REQUIRE AN ASSESSMENT OF THE COUNTY COURT POSSESSION SYSTEM BEFORE ABOLISHING SECTION 21

The Government has been clear that section 21 will be abolished when the courts are ready. We are taking significant steps to deliver court improvement, including providing £1.2m for court digitisation. We will now also bring forward an amendment to require the Lord Chancellor to publish an assessment on barriers to possession and the readiness of the courts in advance of abolishing section 21 for existing tenancies.

UNDERTAKE A REVIEW OF COUNCIL LICENSING SCHEMES

With the introduction of the new Property Portal, some landlord groups have sought reassurance that this will not duplicate the existing licensing system. We will therefore conduct a review of licensing in light of our rental reforms, to reduce burdens on landlords. This review will cover both selective licensing and licensing of HMOs.

ENSURE THE STUDENT MARKET CONTINUES TO WORK

At the Commons Committee stage, we introduced a new mandatory possession ground to facilitate student lets, allowing landlords to evict students living together in a house of multiple occupation (HMO). We have heard concerns about student households that do not meet the HMO definition. We will broaden this ground – ensuring it applies to any property that is let by students, as long as landlords give prior notice to the tenants at the start of the tenancy that the ground will apply. This aims to further protect the student market and the supply of student housing.

PROTECT THE BALANCE OF LONGER AND SHORTER-TERM LETS IN LOCAL AREAS

The Bill currently prevents landlords from marketing or re-letting properties for three months after using possession grounds to move into or sell their property. We will bring forward an amendment to close a loophole, ensuring landlords cannot turn properties into short-term lets during this period.

EXPAND HOMELESSNESS PREVENTION DUTIES

We will bring forward an amendment to give vulnerable tenants certainty that a prevention duty would be owed when they are served with a valid Section 8 notice. This will mean any household served with an eviction notice can access support from their council to help prevent homelessness.

COMMIT TO A REVIEW OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF TENANCY MEASURE WITHIN THE BILL

The Government will introduce an amendment that requires the Secretary of State to lay a statement covering the effectiveness of new possession grounds, and the effect of moving to periodic tenancies and abolishing fixed terms. This will be published within 18 months of the measures being applied to existing tenancies – following an independent review of the new system.

COMMIT IN LEGISLATION TO PUBLISH AN ANNUAL PARLIAMENTARY UPDATE ON THE STATE OF THE PRS

This will include data on the supply, size and location of properties and will be laid before Parliament in the form of a written statement.



Double Council Tax on Empty Homes Takes Effect on 01 April 2024

Posted on March 22nd, 2024 -

Homes in England with no residents will attract a council tax premium of up to 100% from 01 April as tax reforms aimed at supporting people in areas where empty properties prevent them from finding affordable housing come into force.

Changes brought in by the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 reduce the time before a property is considered an empty home from two years to one year, meaning that homes that have been empty for one year will be subject to a 100% council tax premium.

The Act also introduced a council tax premium of 100% for substantially furnished homes that are not someone’s sole or main residence, but because councils must determine at least one year in advance of introducing a second homes premium, the earliest a council can utilise the second homes premium is April 2025.

A range of exemptions will apply

Properties undergoing major repairs or structural alterations will have a 12-month exception from the empty homes’ premium.

Properties being actively marketed for sale or let will have a 12-month exception from the empty homes’ premium. This will provide protections for landlords whose rental property may become empty in between lets or have a gap between tenancy agreements. It also covers properties where an offer to rent has been accepted but the tenant is not yet entitled to occupy the property because the tenancy has not yet started. The exception can also be used where the sale is taking time to complete because it is part of a chain.

Inherited properties will have a 12-month exception after probate or letters of administration have been granted. Where there are cases that merit a longer exception period, or a higher level of discount, councils can continue to exercise their discretion.

Article Abridged from Propertymark

Double tax on empty homes takes effect on 1 April 2024 | Propertymark


Grants Available to Upgrade Off-Gas Properties in Plymouth

Posted on March 15th, 2024 -

Plymouth Energy Community (PEC) is an award-winning local charity with 10 years of experience supporting households in Plymouth. Its Future Fit team is working in partnership with Plymouth City Council to help homeowners improve the energy efficiency of their properties through the Government-funded Home Upgrade Grant (HUG2).

Am I eligible?

HUG2 provides funding towards the cost of upgrades for landlords that meet the following criteria:

  • The Landlord owns a total of 4 or less privately rented properties.
  • The house has an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rated D or below and does not use mains gas for heating.
  • The current tenants are either located in an eligible postcode area OR have a total gross annual household income of £36,000 or less (excluding disability benefits)

 

What upgrades can I have?
Every home is different, but potential improvements may include:

  • Cavity wall, loft or underfloor insulation
  • Air Source Heat Pumps
  • High Heat Retention Storage Heaters
  • Solar panels
  • Heating controls

 

What are the benefits?
Improving the energy efficiency of your properties can:

  • Improve relations with tenants
  • Lower bills for tenants
  • Make homes warmer and healthier for tenants to live in
  • Help safeguard against future legislative risks associated with EPC Bands.
  • Result in fewer maintenance problems (e.g. less mould and damp)
  • Potentially increase the value of the property

How do I access the grant?
Contact PEC’s Advisors who can assess your eligibility and explain the process – 01752 477990 futurefit@plymouthenergycommunity.com

You can also assess your eligibility for this, and other grant schemes using our online tool at plymouthenergycommunity.com/future-fit

If you have a property outside of Plymouth please contact the relevant Local Authority for more information.

 

 

 

 

 


RENT SMART DEVON – Free Landlord Open Event – 23 May 2024 – Exeter Racecourse

Posted on March 15th, 2024 -

Teignbridge is hosting the following event jointly with East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council and Mid Devon District Council. SWLA have a stand at the event. All landlords welcome. 

You are invited to join SWLA at the upcoming Rent Smart Devon event, the premier local event for private landlords and anyone involved in letting property.

It is being held on Thursday 23 May at Exeter Racecourse, Haldon Hill, Exeter EX6 7XS and will run from 2.00pm to 8.00pm.

 

This free event, kindly sponsored by Tozers LLP, will host exhibitions from specialist companies covering many aspects of property management, as well as support organisations, available to help smooth the tenancy pathway. There will be a range of experts on hand to answer your questions.

Doors open at 2pm for networking with presentations in break-out rooms throughout the afternoon and evening.

The final presentation timetable will be published nearer the event but will cover the following topics:

  • What the Renters (Reform) Bill means for you
  • Understanding and addressing damp and mould
  • Exeter Community Energy’s New Retrofit Service
  • Finance Update

Book your place now so you don’t miss out!

Teignbridge is hosting this event jointly with East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council and Mid Devon District Council. If you are a business and would like to book a stand – please contact the organisers.

Rent Smart Devon Tickets, Thu, May 23, 2024 at 2:00 PM | Eventbrite


Meter Tampering: A Hidden Danger for Property, Tenants, and the Community

Posted on March 14th, 2024 -

Meter tampering is a significant challenge in the housing sector as it impacts landlords, tenants and the wider community and can destroy homes, businesses, and families. But did you know that there is a safe way to report any suspicion? That’s where the Stay Energy Safe service is vital, allowing you to speak up anonymously online or by calling 0800 023 2777.

Bypassing an electricity meter can have devastating consequences, including electric shocks, severe burns, and fires, while gas theft can lead to lethal leaks and catastrophic explosions.

Gas leaks and fatal fires

Real-life cases noted on the Stay Energy Safe website here provide insights into the harsh consequences of energy theft, including instances where innocent lives have been lost. Nadeem Mughal was jailed for three years after risking his neighbours’ lives after tampering with his gas meter twice. His actions led to significant gas leaks – threatening up to 20 neighbours in a block of flats in Leicester.

In another incident, a son living with his elderly housebound mother caused her tragic death due to a bypassed electricity meter after it caused a devastating fire.

Feeling the pinch

Since the start of the cost-of-living crisis, Stay Energy Safe has received an average of 1,000 energy theft reports nationally every single month. From some of the information Stay Energy Safe receives, it’s evident that even business owners have been engaging in this incredibly dangerous and reckless behaviour for years.

Financial pressures can encourage people to look for ways to save money without understanding the risks. However, beyond the financial implications, the threat extends far beyond mere billing concerns. Individuals who engage in energy theft can pose serious safety risks to neighbours. Such unauthorised meter tampering jeopardises the safety of the broader community, including residents and employees.

Energy theft occurs in approximately 1 in 150 homes annually, costing UK consumers £1.4 billion yearly, with each consumer estimated to pay an extra £50 each year on their energy bills. Find out more about energy theft here.

Spot the signs

To protect and safeguard legitimate organisations within the housing sector, their employees, contractors, residents, and the surrounding community, it’s important to be able to recognise the signs of energy theft.

You can learn to recognise signs of energy theft here. It often includes irregular wiring, sparking, burn marks or the smell of gas.

The charity Crimestoppers

Stay Energy Safe is a service run by the independent charity Crimestoppers. To pass on your suspicions about energy theft, please report it by completing the Stay Energy Safe online form or by phone on 0800 023 2777. 100% anonymous. Always. This means you will never be asked for your personal details.
By speaking up safely, you will be helping to protect properties and communities, preventing harm or even loss of life.

Speak up. Stay safe.


Plymouth HMO Licence Fee Increase

Posted on March 14th, 2024 -

HMO Licencing fee changes come into effect on 1st April 2024

The fees are to be increased in line with the 6% uplift across the council.

The fees & forms will be amended to:

Initial application (full fee) £1,007.00
Initial application (discounted fee for holding accreditation) £901.00

Renewal application (full fee) £954.00
Renewal application (discounted fee for holding accreditation) £848.00

https://www.plymouth.gov.uk/apply-house-multiple-occupation-licence



10% Off B&Q TradePoint This Weekend – Plus an Extra 10% Off for SWLA TradePoint Members

Posted on March 6th, 2024 -

FRIDAY 8th MARCH 2024 – TUESDAY 12th MARCH 2024


Local Housing Allowance (LHA) Rates to Increase from 01 April 2024

Posted on February 28th, 2024 -

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) determines the maximum financial support available for renters in the private rented sector. The Secretary of State has committed to reviewing the level of LHA rates annually.

Each year Rent Officers at the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) determine LHA rates for the coming financial year.

On 22 November 2023 the Chancellor announced in the Autumn Statement that the government will raise LHA rates in Great Britain to the 30th percentile of local market rates in April 2024.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) uses LHA rates to calculate the maximum housing support for claimants of either the housing element of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. LHA rates are set within Broad Rental Market Areas (BRMA).

BRMA is an area within which a person could reasonably be expected to live, taking into account access to certain facilities and services, for example with regards to health and education.

LANDLORDS WHO CHARGE LHA RATE RENT MAY WANT TO LOOK AT INCREASING THEIR RENT FROM 01 APRIL 2024 TO REFLECT THE INCREASE.

The LHA rates from 01 April 2024 have now been confirmed and published as follows; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/local-housing-allowance-lha-rates-applicable-from-april-2024-to-march-2025

We have included a sample of the LHA rate increases below;

 

AREA SHARED 1 BED 2 BED 3 BED 4 BED
Plymouth 01.04.20-31.03.24 £73.50 £103.56 £134.63 £159.95 £195.62
Plymouth From 01.04.24 £92.05 £126.58 £155.34 £184.11 £224.38
Exeter 01.04.20-31.03.24 £96.66 £131.18 £156.49 £189.86 £253.15
Exeter From 01.04.24 £123.58 £144.99 £182.96 £218.63 £299.18
Bristol 01.04.20-31.03.24 £90.10 £159.95 £189.86 £218.63 £304.93
Bristol From 01.04.24 £117.68 £207.12 £252.00 £299.18 £425.75
Kernow West 01.04.20-31.03.24 £80.97 £113.92 £143.84 £169.15 £212.88
Kernow West From 01.04.24 £90.33 £126.58 £159.95 £187.56 £253.15
Mid & East Devon 01.04.20-31.03.24 £84.50 £103.56 £136.93 £166.85 £207.12
Mid & East Devon From 01.04.24 £93.00 £121.97 £157.64 £189.86 £253.15
Mid & West Dorset 01.04.20-31.03.24 £80.00 £119.67 £149.59 £182.96 £241.64
Mid & West Dorset From 01.04.24 £98.11 £136.93 £172.60 £207.12 £287.67
North Devon 01.04.20-31.03.24 £69.04 £97.81 £126.58 £149.59 £182.96
North Devon From 01.04.24 £97.81 £111.62 £148.44 £178.36 £228.99
South Devon 01.04.20-31.03.24 £65.00 £103.56 £138.08 £168.00 £207.12
South Devon From 01.04.24 £84.50 £116.22 £155.34 £193.32 £253.15

 

Information from gov.uk.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/local-housing-allowance-lha-rates-applicable-from-april-2024-to-march-2025

 


New HMO Licencing Schemes in Bristol

Posted on February 21st, 2024 -

Bristol City Council’s Cabinet has now approved the two new schemes which were subject to a consultation last year. The two new schemes will come into force on Tuesday 6 August 2024. These are a citywide additional House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing scheme, and a new selective licensing scheme (which covers most other types of privately rented properties) in three wards – Bishopston and Ashley Down, Cotham and Easton. 

 

This means that all HMOs within the Bristol City Council boundary, and most other types of privately rented properties in Bishopston and Ashley Down, Cotham and Easton wards, will need a licence from Tuesday 6 August 2024. The schemes will be in operation for five years and each property will be inspected at least once during the lifetime of the scheme to ensure that they meet licensing standards.   

 

Landlords and agents will have up to three months from the start date to submit their licensing applications (until 5 November 2024) together with the part 1 fee.

 

An HMO is a rented property where three or more persons who are not related, occupy the accommodation and share some facilities such as a bathroom and/or kitchen.  

 

HMOs that are already licensed under existing additional licensing schemes whose licence will expire while the new scheme is in force, will need to be re-licensed when the current licence expires. 

 

HMOs which are occupied by five or more persons will still be required to be licensed under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme and not under the citywide additional scheme. 

 

It is a legal requirement for landlords to make a licence application for each property that they let that is covered by licensing schemes. Failure to do so could result in formal enforcement action as set out below.   

 

Under the Housing Act 2004, a person commits an offence if they control or manage a house/HMO which is required to be licensed but is not.  This could result in prosecution and an unlimited fine.    

 

Other consequences of operating an unlicensed property are; rent repayment orders, not being able to end a tenancy while the property is unlicensed, or the local authority taking over the management of your property.   

 

Under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 local authorities are permitted to impose a civil penalty of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution for a range of offences under the Housing Act 2004.  This includes the offences outlined above in relation to the licensing of houses.   

 

Further details on how to make a licence application will be sent just before the scheme goes live, and the system will not accept an application before that date. 

 

For more information on property licensing please visit Bristol City Councils licensing web pages https://www.bristol.gov.uk/business/licences-and-permits/property-licences 

 




SWLA AGM 2024

Posted on January 26th, 2024 -

Thank you to members who attended our AGM this week, and thanks to members who sent their apologies.

Steve Lees, SWLA Chair, lead the evening, with SWLA Treasurer Katarina Swain reporting on the financial matters.

After the official business was complete, everyone took the opportunity to catch up with office staff and other members over refreshments.

We look forward to our next (speaker) meeting in April.


Shelter and Citizens Advice Plymouth Visit the SWLA Office

Posted on January 24th, 2024 -

We often meet Shelter and Citizens Advice representatives at local housing meetings, so it was a welcome change to welcome Jack, Jaroslava and Sarah to the SWLA office to share ideas, discuss sector trends and difficulties, and plan some positive collaboration to improve the private rented sector experience in Plymouth and further afield.

Citizens Advice, with the help of Shelter, have released some helpful booklets in an easy read format for tenants. The latest publication shares information on repair responsibilities in the home and how to best deal with them/report disrepair.

You can find the booklet here, and share with your tenants; PowerPoint Presentation (citizensadviceplymouth.org.uk)


Consultation Open for Awaab’s Law – Timescales for Repair in the Social Rented Sector

Posted on January 24th, 2024 -

Exposure to mould can cause respiratory illnesses, allergies and asthma, and can sometimes be fatal.

In 2020, two-year-old Awaab Ishak died after prolonged exposure to mould in his home in Rochdale.

Under new government proposals, dubbed “Awaab’s law”, social housing landlords in England could be forced to repair mouldy properties much more quickly.

What is black mould?

Mould – sometimes referred to using the American spelling mold – is a microscopic fungus that grows in damp places.

Mould spores are found everywhere, and are released in their thousands into the atmosphere.

Signs of mould at home include fuzzy black, white or green patches on the walls, and a damp and musty smell.

How dangerous is black mould?

Inhaling or touching the spores that mould releases into the air can cause an allergic reaction, such as sneezing, a runny nose, red eyes and a skin rash.

Mould can also trigger asthma attacks and cause coughing, wheezing and breathlessness.

Each year, the NHS in England spends an estimated £1.4bn on treating illnesses associated with living in cold or damp housing, according to building research body BRE.

Those more at risk from mould include the elderly, children and babies, as well as people with existing respiratory illnesses and some skin problems.

What causes mould in houses and how can it be treated?

Condensation is the leading cause of mould in homes across the UK.

It most commonly occurs in parts of the home where there are high moisture levels: bathrooms, kitchens, and around windows.

When air cools, water vapour forms into water droplets as it comes into contact with surfaces in the home that are below a temperature known as the dew point.

These surfaces can include uninsulated external walls or windows.

If left untreated, the surface can become damp and create the conditions for mould to grow.

Older and poorly insulated properties are more prone to this.

Mould can also be caused by daily tasks which create excess moisture such as showering, cooking and drying washing indoors.

Taking shorter showers and wiping down surfaces afterwards can help, as can improving ventilation, and opening kitchen windows or using an extractor fan when cooking.

It is also important to check for leaky pipes or gutters which can make the problem worse.

What rights do tenants have if their home has mould?

In private and social rental properties, it is the landlord’s responsibility to fix a mould problem which is due to poor maintenance, according to the housing charity Shelter.

If the mould is so bad that your home becomes unfit for habitation, then you could be classed as homeless and entitled to emergency accommodation.

But landlords may not be responsible if there is evidence a tenant has not been ventilating the home correctly.

Who was Awaab Ishak?

In December 2020, two-year-old Awaab Ishak died after prolonged exposure to mould in his home.

He lived in a one-bedroom flat in Rochdale with his father Faisal Abdullah and Faisal’s wife Aisha Amin.

Mr Abdullah reported mould developing in the flat to his housing association, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH), in 2017, but was told to paint over it.

In June 2020, he instructed solicitors to issue a claim over the recurring mould, but any repairs could not be done until the case was settled.

Awaab was taken to Rochdale Urgent Care Centre on 19 December that year with shortness of breath, and died a few days later after suffering respiratory and cardiac arrest.

What would landlords have to do about mould under “Awaab’s law”?

Social landlords would have to investigate issues within 14 days and begin fixing them within a further seven days. Emergency repairs would have to be made within 24 hours.

Landlords who fail to comply could be taken to court and ordered to pay compensation.

consultation on the proposals closes on 5 March.

After this, the government says it will bring Awaab’s Law into force “as soon as practically possible”.

 

 

Article by the BBC https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-63642856

If you would like to respond to the consultation; https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/awaabs-law-consultation-on-timescales-for-repairs-in-the-social-rented-sector


Huge Increase in Fines for Right to Rent Non-Compliance

Posted on January 24th, 2024 -

As of 22nd January 2024

For landlords the fines increased from £80 per lodger and £1,000 per occupier for a first breach to up to £5,000 per lodger and £10,000 per occupier.

Repeat breaches will be up to £10,000 per lodger and £20,000 per occupier, up from £500 and £3,000 respectively. The higher penalties will come in at the start of 2024.

Landlords have been hit with over 320 civil penalties worth a total of £215,500 since the start of 2018 when the Government’s Right to Rent rules were first introduced.

Landlords should already be checking the eligibility of anyone they let a property to and there are a number of ways to do this, which are not changing, including via a manual check of original documentation and a Home Office online checking system.

For full details on how to carry out a landlord Right to Rent check, please see the gov.uk website www.gov.uk/landlord-immigration-check and contact the SWLA office if you have any queries.



Landlords Must Give New Boiler Certificate (Building Regulations Compliance Certificate) As They Would a Gas Safety Certificate

Posted on January 10th, 2024 -

A recent court case has highlighted the importance of landlords providing tenants with documentation.

A new boiler was installed at the start of a tenancy, the Building Regulations Compliance Certificate was not given to the tenant, a Gas Safety Certificate was given to the tenant later in the tenancy when the gas safety check was due, later on in the tenancy a Section 21 was served. The Section 21 was deemed invalid as the Building Regulations Compliance Certificate was never given to the tenant.

The full court case information can be read here, article by the NRLA;

A landlord has had their Section 21 possession claim rejected – and been ordered to pay their tenants’ court costs – after failing to provide them with information about a newly installed boiler before serving notice.

The case of Van-Herpen v Green & Green rested on an argument as to whether a Building Regulations Compliance Certificate had to be issued for a newly installed boiler – and whether a Gas Safety Certificate should have been provided following subsequent visits to the property by a gas safety engineer.

Mrs Van-Herpen, the landlord, had attempted to serve notice on July 14, 2022 – 17 months ago – but the tenants disputed the validity of the Section 21 notice on the basis they hadn’t been given essential paperwork.

The background 

While the claimant and defendants’ version of events differed on certain points, it was accepted the tenants moved into the property on September 5, 2018.

A qualified gas safety engineer confirmed in a written statement to the court that a new boiler was installed on September 6, 2018, and that – as a new installation – it did not need a Gas Safety Certificate, but instead only a Building Regulations Compliance Certificate.

He claimed in his statement: ‘This certificate is a Gas Safety Certificate in its own right and is issued by the Gas Safety Register’. Both parties agreed a copy was not given to the tenants, although the landlord said they would have provided one, if asked.

The same engineer also checked the boiler two months later, on November 14th, and although he said this was a ‘complete safety check’ he also said no Gas Safety Certificate was necessary, as the boiler was under a year old. Again, both parties agreed no Gas Safety Certificate was given to the tenants, but the landlord says this is because it was not required due to the boiler being under a year old.

The boiler was next checked on October 30, 2019, after an original inspection scheduled for August was delayed by the tenants – something they didn’t dispute. Following this inspection, on the same day, the tenants were given a Gas Safety Certificate by the engineer.

The issues in question 

The case rested on two key questions:

•    Had the claimant (landlord, Van-Herpen) complied with the Gas Safety Regulations, despite the fact they did not provide the defendants (tenants, Green & Green) with the Building Regulations Compliance Certificate (dated September 6, 2018)?

•    Had the claimant complied with the Gas Safety Regulations, despite the fact they did not provide the defendants with a Gas Safety Certificate (following the inspection on November 14)?

The landlord argued there was no legal requirement to provide the Building Regulations Compliance Certificate, and that no Gas Safety Certificate was issued or requested in 14th of November 2018.

They argued that, having provided a Gas Safety Certificate to the defendants following the 2019 inspection, the Section 21 Notice was in all circumstances valid, and they were therefore entitled to possession.

The defendants argued the landlord was in breach of Gas Safety Regulations and therefore the notice was not valid.

The verdict 

Following a trial at Hastings County Court on November 9, Deputy District Judge Duncan Wright ruled in favour of the tenants.

In his judgement he said he was ‘not persuaded by the claimant’s submission that such a check and consequential record is not required within 12 months of a boiler being installed’.

He also refused to accept the landlord’s suggestion that, had the defendants requested a copy of the Building Regulations Compliance Certificate, they would have been provided with it; saying the legislation clearly places the onus upon the landlord to provide the record to the defendants.

In his ruling he said the tenants: ‘should have been provided with a copy of the Gas Safety Certificates arising out of the inspections on September 6, 2018, and November 14, 2018, prior to service of the Section 21 Housing Act Notice. This did not occur.

“As a consequence, the purported Section 21 Housing Act Notice was defective, and as a consequence these proceedings must be dismissed.”

The then ordered the landlord to pay the tenants’ court costs.

 

 


New Local Housing Allowance Rates to Come into Force in April

Posted on January 10th, 2024 -

Around 1.6 million private renters are set to receive a substantial boost to their housing support in April, as the Government lays legislation to increase Local Housing Allowance (LHA).

For the new rates from April 2024; https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/local-housing-allowance-indicative-rates-for-2024-to-2025

  • New Local Housing Allowance rates to come into force in April as legislation being laid in parliament.
  • £7 billion investment over the next five years means 1.6 million private renters on Universal Credit or Housing Benefit will be around £800 better off a year.
  • Comes as national insurance cut comes into effect – meaning households with two average earners will save nearly £1,000 per year.

The boost will benefit some of the poorest families on either Universal Credit or Housing Benefit who will gain around £800 a year on average.

The support worth over £7 billion over the next five years comes as the government publishes the proposed LHA rates for 2024/25, with people living in the most expensive areas set to see the biggest boost.

The increase to the LHA has been welcomed by many housing and homelessness organisations and is part of the Government’s £104 billion cost of living support package – worth an average £3,700 per household. This also includes raising benefits by 6.7%, the state pension by 8.5%, and £300 cost of living payments, with over 7 million households receiving the latest payment and another payment coming in February. Whilst more than 26 million payments totalling over £2 billion to help families with essentials have been made since October 2021 through the Household Support Fund.

This additional support comes as 27 million people are set to get a significant tax cut as the main rate of employee National Insurance will be cut from 12% to 10%. This reduces National Insurance by more than 15% in total, saving £450 this year for the average salaried worker on £35,400.

Subject to the benefits cap, eligible renters of:

  • A four-bedroom property in Bristol could get up to £1,850 per month.
  • A two-bedroom property in Greater Glasgow could get up to £850 per month.
  • A one-bedroom property in Leeds could get up to £675 per month.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said:

Housing costs are the number one expense for families. This £1.2 billion boost to Local Housing Allowance, along with our landmark Back to Work reforms, reflects our fair approach to welfare – helping people into employment while protecting the most vulnerable with unprecedented cost of living support.

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Mims Davies said:

Keeping inflation down and supporting people to stay and progress in work is the best way we can bolster families’ finances and help them progress, but we know some are still struggling which is why we are providing this important extra help.

This key boost to our housing support will see average renters around £800 better off. It is just one crucial part of our £104 billion package to help the most vulnerable which also includes an increase to benefits in line with inflation and our latest series of cost of living payments.

Crisis Chief Executive, Matt Downie said:

It cannot be understated just how vital this investment in housing benefit will be in helping to both prevent and end homelessness.

In recent years, people receiving housing benefit have found it increasingly difficult to afford the soaring cost of rents. Giving housing benefit this crucial boost will make a real difference to people across Great Britain and will relieve some of the pressure facing people on the lowest incomes.

We hope this investment will be maintained for the long term, so we can continue with our collective mission to end homelessness for good.

The investment comes on top of the £30 billion the government is providing over 2023/24 on housing support.

Minister for Levelling Up Jacob Young said:

This funding boost is just one part of how we’re supporting people in the private rented sector with the cost of living.

We have already invested £30 billion in housing support, along with Discretionary Housing Payments which provide an added safety net for anyone struggling to meet their rent.

We are taking the long term decisions needed for a better private rented sector, through our Renters Reform Bill, giving tenants security and supporting good landlords.

The government is also tackling homelessness with the £654 million Homeless Prevention Grant, giving councils in England vital money and support to prevent and tackle homelessness, as well as developing the Homelessness Covenant with Crisis.

The Local Housing Allowance determines the maximum housing support for private renters. It ensures that claimants in the same area with similar situations are entitled to the same maximum support regardless of the rent they pay. The level of support is based on the area where the person lives and the size of their household.

Additional Information

More information on cost of living payments – Cost of Living Payments 2023 to 2024 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

 

BRMA

(Broad Rental Market Area)

Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) LHA rate (£) 1 bed LHA rate (£) 2 bed LHA rate (£) 3 bed LHA rate (£) 4 bed LHA rate (£)
Plymouth Currently 73.50 103.56 134.63 159.95 195.62
Plymouth Proposed 92.05 126.58 155.34 184.11 224.38

*The data is indicative, confirmed rates will be released in accordance with legislation on 31 January 2024.

 

Article from gov.uk

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/millions-of-renters-better-off-with-boost-to-housing-support


Outcomes of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) Review

Posted on December 21st, 2023 -

Local councils use the HHSRS risk evaluation tool to assess health and safety hazards in people’s homes. If an HHSRS assessment identifies that a hazard (for example: fire, damp and mould, falls, excess cold) is at the most dangerous ‘category 1’ level, then the council must take enforcement action against the property’s landlord. Properties must also be free from ‘category 1’ level hazards to meet the Decent Homes Standard.

The government have been reviewing the HHSRS with the aim to bring it up to date, empowering landlords and tenants to engage with the system, and ensuring alignment with other legislative standards and systems, including the Building Safety Act, and help with the effective enforcement of housing standards.

The review has concluded, but new regulations are required to bring the conclusions of the review into force.

In the meantime, the government have published a summary report setting out outcomes of the review and next steps, which can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/housing-health-and-safety-rating-system-hhsrs-review-outcomes-and-next-steps

Information from gov.uk


Possession Delays Due to Disrepair Claims

Posted on December 21st, 2023 -

The Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service (HLPAS: Free legal advice and representation for tenants facing eviction) – launched on 01 August 2023 and many tenants have been utilising the service. SWLA have seen a big change in possession cases – often with cases taking longer and being more complex due to tenants counter claiming on the basis of disrepair in the property.

 

Be sure to protect yourself, your tenant and your investment!

  1. Before letting the property, use the Housing Health and Safety Rating System points as a guide to ensure that the property is free of hazards and is in good repair; https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5a799834ed915d0422069a0a/150940.pdf
  2. Have a thorough inventory from day 1 of the tenancy, this is your proof that the property was in good repair when it was initially let to the tenant. You can create an inventory yourself or use a professional inventory clerk.
  3. Be clear in the tenancy agreement – what is the tenant responsible for and how should they report disrepair to the landlord? Make it easy for the tenant to report issues. Keep communication open
  4. Deal with repair issues swiftly, thoroughly, and keep timescale evidence. When was the disrepair reported, what action did you take, when did you take the action, was the disrepair rectified, have evidence of the outcome.
  5. Carry out regular maintenance checks on the property – once per year or once every 6 months. This will prevent major disrepair in the property as smaller fixes can prevent large scale repair issues.
  6. If your tenant refuses access for maintenance checks and repair visits – they are within their right to do so. Keep evidence and if you feel necessary, report to the local authority – especially if the lack of access is making the property dangerous – i.e. gas safety checks etc.

When it comes to getting possession of your property – the condition of the property is a major factor in whether you will be awarded possession. Have evidence and be prepared for disrepair claims!


Follow the Renters (Reform) Bill Progress

Posted on December 21st, 2023 -

The Renters (Reform) Bill had its Second Reading in the Commons on Monday 23 October 2023 and finished Committee stage on Thursday 30 November 2023. Report stage is expected early in the New Year.

You can follow the progress of the Bill through parliament by visiting: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3462

Alongside the Bill’s Second Reading, the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) published their response to the recent DLUHC’s Select Committee Inquiry into the PRS. The Committee’s report included a range of recommendations on various aspects of their policies including court reform, notice periods and guidance for tenants. They have responded to all of the recommendations, and you can read the full report here: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/41806/documents/207184/default/

On 14 November, the Government tabled a number of amendments to the Bill – these changes are policies first outlined in the PRS White Paper, ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector’. Key changes to the Bill include:

  • Decent Homes Standard – allowing regulations to be made setting out Decent Homes Standard requirements for private rented sector homes, and providing local authorities with effective and proportionate enforcement powers.
  • Blanket bans – making it illegal for letting agents and landlords to discriminate against tenants with dependents or in receipt of benefits.
  • Investigatory powers – strengthening local authorities’ investigatory
    powers, including new powers to require information and powers of entry. This will better equip local authorities to investigate and take any necessary enforcement action against criminal landlords.
  • Rent repayment orders – ensuring that superior landlords can be liable for rent repayment orders as well as a tenant’s immediate landlord. In addition, we are extending the maximum amount of rent that a landlord can be ordered to pay from 12 to 24 months, which will allow for more proportionate penalties for criminal landlords.
  • Tenancy reform – covering a range of amendments from student lets, enforcement and council tax.

 

Article by gov.uk (DLUHC)

 


Free Landlord Webinar – by Martyn Taylor of Ashley Taylors Legal – Section 21 Notices: A Checklist to Getting it Right First Time – Tuesday 19th December 2023

Posted on December 15th, 2023 -

This month’s 30 minute Ashley Taylors Legal Webinar looks at the increasing number of challenges to Section 21 actions caused by simple, easy to avoid errors being made at the service of notice stage.

Your speaker Martyn Taylor has been conducting Landlord and Tenant cases since July 1980 and his team specialize solely in that subject. He will talk with up to date experience and share what’s happening in the Courts and Law today.

Martyn will take you through a checklist for use, together with explanations of what to look out for and the subtle nuances that sometimes disguise fatal errors until too late.

When: Tuesday 19th December 2023  2.00pm – 2.30pm
Topic: Section 21 Notices: A Checklist to Getting it Right First Time
Register in advance for this webinar:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Mx5V5mN7RJ2D4Z1rw_2jwg

 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

PLEASE NOTE, THIS IS NOT AN SWLA WEBINAR


Property Listing Guidance Updated by Trading Standards

Posted on December 13th, 2023 -

National Trading Standards has published guidance for letting agents and landlords to improve material information in property listings.

Material information is any information that a letting/landlords agent provides, which will help a customer make a decision.

Information includes;

  • Council Tax
  • Rent
  • Holding deposit
  • Tenancy deposit
  • Physical description of the property
  • Number and types of rooms
  • Utilities
  • Parking
  • Building safety, restrictions/rights, flood/erosion risk, planning permission/proposals, accessibility/adaptations, location issues (eg in mining area)

 

For full information and guidance; Material Information in Property Listings (Lettings) v1.0.pdf (nationaltradingstandards.uk)


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